Freedom House released a report outlining actions against nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) by governments across Africa. Entitled Freedom Under Threat: The Spread of Anti-NGO Measures in Africa, the report finds that 12 African countries have passed laws that improperly constrain NGOs in the last 15 years, while six more have anti-NGO measures pending. In six countries, restrictive legislation has been abandoned by executives, rejected by legislatures, or invalidated by courts, often in the face of push-back from civil society.
Photo Credit: © Georgina Goodwin
ICNL’s new report, “Closing Academic Space: Repressive State Practices in Legislative, Regulatory and Other Restrictions on Higher Education Institutions” seeks to understand the ways in which governments are repressing university autonomy and closing academic space. The authors identify the scope of restrictive practices around the world and make recommendations to help stakeholders in their efforts to reduce government interference and maintain university autonomy.
Amnesty International’s new report on the global crackdown on CSOs highlights obstacles that organizations face in exercising their right to freely associate, including difficulty registering, excessive administrative burdens, state interference, and limits on foreign funding. In particular, it demonstrates the manner in which “unacceptable voices”, especially those representing marginalized communities are targeted.
In October 2018, human rights defenders convened in a global summit. The summit resulted in a plan of action with concrete proposals and calls for commitments from States for the protection and promotion of HRDs and their work in the years to come.
The European Center for Not-for-Profit Law & The International Center for Not-for-Profit Law in partnership with Dentons and DLA Piper published a 160 page handbook for CSOs to register and acquire legal personality in ten countries across Eurasia and the MENA region: Belgium, Czechia, Estonia, Georgia, Germany, Ireland, Lebanon, Sweden, Tunisia and Turkey. The handbook is a practical guide, highlighting the complexity of tax laws, challenges of registration procedures, and more.
In August the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of association and peaceful assembly submitted a report to the Human Rights Council on the linkages between civic freedoms and the achievement of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The special rapporteur stressed that it is not possible to achieve the SDGs without freedom of association and assemble. The report draws a variety of linkages between the rights of assembly and association and how the SDGs can be achieved.
The State of Civic Freedom in the Middle East and North Africa released its annual report which noted a diversity of trends in civic space across the region, with a focus on Jordan, Morocco, Kuwait, Lebanon and Tunisia. The report notes that the challenges faced by CSOs vary greatly depending on the country. For Instance, in Morocco and Jordan most CSO stakeholders citied that the price of registering an organization was most significant obstacle to establishing an organization, while in Tunisia, Kuwait, and Lebanon the most significant obstacle was governments not responding to their registration applications. However, cross regional trends include fear the state security forces will violently retaliate against demonstrations, and the belief that the legal environment discourages civic involvement.
On September 19, 2018 the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR), the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC), with support from International Center for Not-for-profit Law released the second annual report of the Fundamental Freedoms Monitoring Project (FFMP). The second, and most recent version of the study noted a sharp decrease in the fundamental freedoms enjoyed by all Cambodians, including freedom of association, assembly and expression. An example of the findings includes the fact that 20% of CSO/Trade Union leaders reported “always” feeling it is necessary to censor themselves when speaking in public – up from 8% in previous year.
Civil society and the ability to exercise the core civic space freedoms – the freedoms of association, expression, and peaceful assembly – have been under threat for many years. Governments continue to enact laws and regulations that impede the ability of civil society actors – individuals, organizations and movements – to exist and operate. This challenge – often called “closing civic space” – has been the focus of much study and diagnosis. The more complex question, however, is what can be done in response.
In late 2016, the Government of Sweden commissioned the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) to propose ways in which Swedish development cooperation could more effectively help counteract shrinking democratic space by strengthening civil society. Sida invited input from some 50 respondents on this and other questions relating to civic space. Informed in part by this input, the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL) set out to explore what governmental donors can do to address the closing space challenge more effectively. This paper is the result.
This report analyzes the root causes of the killing of HRDs in Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and the Philippines. With a foreword from United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders Michel Forst and introduction by Front Line Defenders Exective Director Andrew Anderson, "Stop the Killings" is a vital resource for understanding the current and alarming increase of killings of human rights defenders globally.
The report outlines updates from the CIVICUS Monitor and changes in ratings as of October 2017. The findings provide further evidence that civic space continues to close around the world. These closures affect a wide range of countries including established democracies, economic powerhouses, and conflict-ridden nations. The report highlights worsened ratings in eight countries, improved ratings in two countries, and unchanged ratings in 185 others.
The report discusses the role of civil society in India and how it has evolved since the country’s struggle for independence. Though the country boasts an active and vibrant civil society that has been instrumental in protecting human rights, holding the government accountable, and advocating for policies, the ability of CSOs to engage in democratic dissent has shrunk drastically since Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi took office in May 2014. The report details how CSOs and activists increasingly find themselves targeted by government authorities indirectly through restrictive legislation and funding regulations.
The report examines the major events involving and affecting civil society around the world by drawing from a wide range of interviews with members of civil society and melding those testimonials with research and analysis. Key trends impacting civil society throughout 2017 and continuing into 2018 are identified and discussed as an overview of what civil society was faced with over the last year. The report asserts that 2017 was marked by innovative mobilization of citizens, a pushback on populism, and intolerance for violations of rule of law, undermining of democratic institutions, cronyism, and false propaganda. The report also includes a timeline of major events for civil society that took place in 2017 across the world.
The report focuses on the ways in which closures of civic space – especially restrictions on the registration, financing, and operations of civil society organizations – affect HIV response in East Africa. In particular, the report highlights restrictive laws, policies, and practices in Ethiopia, Uganda, and Kenya that hinder the ability of CSOs to implement urgently-needed programs to lower the rate of HIV/AIDS in their respective countries. The study finds that CSOs that could energetically combat HIV among hard-to-reach and at-risk populations are instead burdened by bureaucratic red tape. Finally, the report finds that these CSO regulations fail to meet those countries’ obligations under regional and international human rights treaties.
Among the more surprising developments in 21st-century politics are the reversals experienced by civil society, once regarded as an irresistible force in the global struggle for democracy.
The growing offensive against civil society is in many respects a tribute to the prominent role that NGOs have come to play in the political life of most countries. An active civil society is often seen as a formidable threat to a repressive or illiberal status quo. Civil society was the linchpin in the successful popular revolutions in Serbia, Ukraine, and Georgia. In fact, civil society organizations frequently pose a greater threat to autocracy than do traditional opposition parties, which have proven relatively easy for determined strongmen to sideline, neutralize, or co-opt. Civil society movements, by contrast, are generally composed of younger activists, committed to a cause, more resilient, more agile, and less prone to corruption.
The report gives an overview of the work FORUM-ASIA has done in 2016 for the promotion and protection of human rights in the region. It features updates and activities from all programmes, a financial overview, and a map with all our member organisations in 2016, among other things.
Through this report, FORUM-ASIA hopes to give an insight to what we have done, and open the doors to further collaboration in the future. We would like to express our gratitude to our donors, members and partners, but most importantly all the human rights defenders, the people whose whose invaluable contributions have made FORUM-ASIA’s accomplishments possible.
According to new findings from the CIVICUS Monitor, just three percent of people live in countries where space for civic activism - or civic space- is truly open. The first ever analysis of civic space covering all UN Member States shows people in 106 countries face serious threats when organising, speaking out and taking peaceful action to improve their societies. These rights are guaranteed by most national constitutions and enshrined in international law.
The Enabling Environment National Assessment (EENA) is an action-oriented research tool designed to assess the legal, regulatoryand policy environment for civil society. The EENAs are designed to be locally-owned, rooted in primary data collected at the grassroots level, and validated by a consensus based, multi-stakeholder process with the dual purpose of strengthening the capacity of civil society to advocate for an enabling environment and improving CSO-government relations.
The research tool was designed by CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation and the International Center for Non-for-Profit Law (ICNL) under the Civic Space Initiative. Between 2013 and 2016 it has been implemented in 22 countries worldwide. The EENA is part of the Civic Space Initiative, implemented by CIVICUS in partnership with the ARTICLE19, International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL), and the World Movement for Democracy, with support from the Government of Sweden.
The office of the United Nations Special Rapporteur has put out its annual report on the freedom of assembly and association worldwide. Detailing the tumultuous year, the report discusses closing spaces for civic engagement and retaliation against human rights defenders. People fundamentally need to engage in their societies, and they will continue to do that no matter what the cost – even if it means risking their safety, their liberty or even their lives.
The report also details places in which progress was palpable, illustrating just how powerful assembly and association rights can be in motivating change – and why people fight so hard to exercise these rights. Massive protests led to the ousting or impeachment of national leaders in Brazil, Iceland and South Korea. They also forced the governments of Turkey and Poland to withdraw regressive legislation on child sexual assault and abortion, respectively.
These stories and more are summarized in this report, Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai’s third and final “yearbook” of assembly and association rights – a year-end summary of the major developments of 2016, including important news events and the key activities of his mandate.